Explore the most popular Bird Watching trails in South Dakota with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Date: 3/22/2019
Cost: $20 for 7-day vehicle pass to the park
Conditions: 50 degrees with a slight breeze

Fun hike! Took 2 hours to complete the trail. You enter the trail behind the school building, take an initial left up an intense hill for about 50-100 feet, and then go right at the fork. If you continue to go left, you’ll have a 30-minute climb. If you go right (counterclockwise), it’s much more gradual. There was quite a bit of ice on the trail in March, but it’s definitely doable in solid hiking shoes and at about the halfway mark, the trail opens wide and is completely free from snow and ice. A little past halfway is the lookout. There’s a sign that says something about getting away from the hustle and bustle to recalibrate. At that sign, walk up the rock formation (not treacherous at all), and go up to the top. The legend says that two Native American lovers took their lives off this cliff as they were forbidden to be together by their respective tribes. BEAUUUUUUTIFUL outlook at the top of the rock.

Went today 3/20. Snow packed down in most places. We had treads and were mostly fine but most people just wore boots. Wanted to do the loop but #4 was snowed in and not traversed at all. Taking #9 down was a little brutal for some reason - maybe the redundancy - but amazing vistas and views. We spent about 5 hours including a 1 hour rest at the top and many sporadic rests throughout.

11 days ago

14 days ago

Back in 2007 we went backpacking here in the Black Elk Wilderness. We started out at Little devils tower trailhead on trail #4 up to Harney Peak which I now see it is called Black Elk Peak. You can not beat the view. There you can see Cathedral spires, Mt. Rushmore and the town of Custer. After we summited the peak we headed out on the Lost cabin #2 trail to Willow creek horse camp and back on Harney Peak #9. Beautiful country but very rugged! Its a must to be in shape to do any extensive hiking or backing and carry a lot of water and a way to filter it.
We went back in 2016 and summited the peak again and we hardly recognize the trails and area. The Pine wood Beatle has killed so many trees and I believe they had a strong storm come through and blew down a lot of the dead trees. I posted some photos of before and after when we were there.
To summit Little devils Tower is a must also!

16 days ago

Super easy hike and kid friendly!

16 days ago

Breathtaking views once you get to the top!!

Awesome on a fall day when it was about 70 degrees. October 2014. We were going 21 mph at one point heading south by airport. A bit slower on south portions due to kids & pets. Moved to Sioux Falls to do more often.

love this hike

this is a very nice trail for any kind of bicycle enjoy.

1 month ago

I would rate this as easy to moderate. Although it is a short trail, there are some steep parts. Today it was muddy and icy.

icey parking lot bring your treks

beautiful views

I thought this was a great hike. Many different types of scenery and a few points of moderate hiking. Very beautiful.

2 months ago

Lots of different options for length/difficulty. Pretty mediocre views until you're at the lookout though and I found the marking a little confusing.

2 months ago

Big Horn along the trail and combination of awesome views and the stream makes this a top 5 trail in the Black Hills.

on Notch Trail

2 months ago

Hiked on 1/20, a 20F morning. Saw three mule deers at the beginning or the trail. Super cute. The trail is pretty snowy, but can still be recognized. The view of badlands in snow was stunning; glad we had the microspike so we could enjoy the view without worrying to slip.

this is a short trail system with some hills. It is very Scenic and deer are abundant. If you bring your binoculars you should be able to see many examples of wildlife. can be a little slippery in the winter.

This used to be called Harney Peak. We did it several times with children and my recollection is that there were many scenic vistas on the way up. Once on top, you know it. A great place to have lunch and enjoy the 360 view. The best hike in the Black Hills.

2 months ago

Date: Jan 3, 2019
Cost: $ subject to NPS Parks Pass
Conditions: Partly cloudy, calm, Mid 30s

Pros: Gorgeous in winter. The ladder in the middle is neat and adds a fun element to this hike. Great expansive view at end of the park, nice spot to watch sunset.

My experience: 1.7 miles round trip. Briefly lost trail at one point. Ladder slippery in winter. I had more trouble going down than up. No problem entering park during Government Shut Down - roads were clear and gates were open. Leave no trace!!!

Cons: Sturdy footwear recommended. Use duck-type boots if wet/winter/muddy. Ladder is quite steep at the top and can be unnerving for some. I imagine the ladder could be congested at busy times. I briefly got off course and only knew it due to my AllTrails app.

IG: Minnesota_Wanderer

Awesome day hike. Pretty easy with amazing views. Plus my pup loved it. Can’t go wrong with this hike.

We hiked this trail in September w another couple and we thought it was great! Not as much water as we were expecting once we got to the actual "bathtub," but we plan on going back in the spring/summertime.

Been one of my favorite spots for years. Love it so much decided to get married here. ❤

I got an all-time favorite photo here. we loved it. The ladder is intimidating but very secure. great view at the end.

2 months ago

We went on this in the fall, and it was pretty cool.

One of our regular Trails we love to revisit. We love bringing the dogs out.

Hiked trail 9 from the Sylvan Lake parking lot New Year’s Eve night, we were the first to Summit Black Elk Peak in 2019!! Had a blast! Snow was really deep in some areas along the trail. Always love this hike and the view! Cheers to 2019!

I did this fantastic hike with my husband and two young children who were 2 and 3 at the time. We carried them with our Boba carriers the majority of the way. They were both able to hike for portions of this adventure, but they liked getting to hitch a ride as well (they napped in the carriers on the way down). The hike is a lot longer than it seems. On our way back we were asked by many people if they were close and I wouldn't tell them because I didn't want to discourage anyone, but they were only 1/4 or 1/2 way to the peak. Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, keep a steady pace, take breaks, and you will have no problem. The view at the top is spectacular! You feel like you are on top of the world and you kind of are. At 7242 feet, Black Elk Peak is the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Awesome!

This was a beautiful hike. We did this hike on a Saturday in late summer. We started out early in the morning planning to take our time. We only met one other couple and a couple on horses. The overlook views were amazing and we enjoyed our lunch on a rock outcropping with a view for miles. We were also testing our overnight backpacks so our loads made the trail a little more strenuous but we made it to the top only to be met by the large numbers of people hiking up to Black Elk from the other side. The trail is well marked and easy to follow with many scenic views for photos. Some of the steps are pretty high towards the top and with my backpack load I was wishing I had done more lunges at the gym lol but the 360° view from the top was worth it all! The trip down was just as unpopulated but we could see an unforcasted storm moving in, with about an hour left to our car we were in the middle of a lighting storm. We debated about stopping to put rain gear on or staying out of the path of lightening but it was mostly a sky storm with only a few big drops here and there. Just as we were loading the car the sky unloaded. I'm not sure we will hike this trail again as we are from out of state and there are so many areas of South Dakota we want to explore but I'm glad we did this trail it only made us fall in love with The Black Hills even more.

I am not an avid hiker (yet). We hiked this trail this summer. It wasn’t too difficult, but I have bad knees. It had one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. Breathtaking.

3 months ago

not bad but I want from Notch Trail trail head towards Old Ne. I wish I had time to go furthee

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